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Supreme Court Hears Arguments over Rights of Juvenile Offenders

April 27, 2011 | Posted In Recent News - Juvenile Law

How does law enforcement determine that a juvenile offender is aware of his rights under the law?  That is the question being posed before the Supreme Court, as it hears arguments about the constitutional rights of juvenile offenders.

At the core of the matter is whether a juvenile offender is aware that, if he's under arrest, he has to have his Miranda rights read out to him.  The case stems from a matter involving a seventh grader who was found near several burgled homes in 2005.  Police walked into the school and took him from his class.  He was taken to a conference room for questioning in the presence of his assistant principal and two other school employees. 

The boy said that he had taken some of the items that were missing from the two homes.  However, his lawyers alleged that the statement could not be used against him because he had not been read his Miranda rights.  A trial judge denied the boy's defense attorney’s motion, saying that the boy was not technically in custody when he was being questioned at the school.

However, during an appeal, his lawyer insisted that judges must consider the age of the juvenile offender to determine whether he is actually in custody during interrogation.  It's crucial that a juvenile offender be aware that he's in custody because he then needs to have his Miranda rights read out to him.  In a situation like this, a young juvenile offender needs to know that he is not under any pressure to answer any of the questions being put to him, and that he can walk away from the situation.

The Juvenile Law Center has supported the boy in this case, arguing that ignoring the offender's age would put many juveniles through interrogations that they do not understand and do not wish to be a part of.

The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with DWI, murder, assault, drug crimes, sex crimes and other crimes across New Jersey.

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